Who wrote the Christmas carol 'Once in Royal David’s City'?

The Christmas carol 'Once in Royal David’s City' was written in 1848 as a poem by poet and hymn writer Cecil Frances Alexander, who also wrote the famous hymn 'All Things Bright and Beautiful' and the Passiontide hymn 'There is a green hill far away'.


'Once in Royal David's City' was published in a hymnbook for children called Hymns for Little Children.

Who composed the music to 'Once in Royal David’s City'?

Organist and composer Henry John Gauntlett discovered the poem about a year after it was first published and set it to music

What are the lyrics to the Christmas carol Once in Royal David’s City?

Once in royal David's city,
Stood a lowly cattle shed,
Where a mother laid her baby
In a manger for His bed:
Mary was that mother mild,
Jesus Christ her little child.
He came down to earth from heaven,
Who is God and Lord of all,
And His shelter was a stable,
And His cradle was a stall;
With the poor and meek and lowly,
Lived on earth our Saviour holy.
And through all
His wondrous childhood,
He would honour and obey,
Love and watch the lowly mother,
In whose gentle arms He lay.
Christian children all should be,
Mild, obedient, good as He.
For He is our child-hood's pattern,
Day by day like us He grew,
He was little, weak, and helpless,
Tears and smiles like us He knew,
And He feeleth for our sadness,
And He shareth in our gladness.
And our eyes at last shall see Him,
Through His own redeeming love;
For that child so dear and gentle,
Is our Lord in heaven above,
And He leads His children on,
To the place where He is gone.
Not in that poor lowly stable,
With the oxen standing by,
We shall see Him, but in heaven,
Set at God's right hand on high;
When like stars
His children crowned,
All in white shall be around.

'Once in Royal David's City' at King's College, Cambridge

More than 150 years after it was written and composed, 'Once in Royal David's City' is a much loved carol and a highlight of King's College Christmas Eve service.

Every year, one King’s College, Cambridge chorister is chosen to open the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols with the exposed solo verse of 'Once in Royal' in front of a packed chapel… and several million radio listeners.

However, to save the poor/lucky lad from having his run-up to Christmas completely savaged by nerves, the chosen treble is never told of his big moment until just before the service is about to begin. The treble solo is just one highlight of this perennial favourite – that moment when congregation and organ stirs to life for the second verse and the glorious descant are just as much a part of the annual King’s Christmas experience.

Find more lyrics to your favourite Christmas carols here


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